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Marx and the Rise of Communism as Presented in Animal Farm
Throughout the twentieth century, the nation of Russia experienced several abrupt and tumultuous changes in government. While there were many Russians who contributed enormously to the institution of the new political and economic systems, one of the most influential figures was a German philosopher named Karl Heinrich Marx. Of course, Marx never lived to see the fundamentals of his beliefs twisted and warped as they were in Communist Russia. Nevertheless, he provided a staunch set of ideals that Soviet leaders claimed to live by for more than half a century. Animal Farm is a fable which warns against the dystopian ways of a communist society and narrates the tale of group of farm animals who represent various Soviet figureheads. In this literary work, Marx is represented by the pig Old Major, who accurately portrays Marx’s stance against capitalism, his thirst for rebellion, and his promotion of a classless society founded on equality.
One of Marx’s most defining characteristics was his firm belief in the evils of capitalism. He hypothesized that the burning resentment of the laborer towards the executive would eventually lead to revolution, meanwhile the steadily decreasing pay would prevent the laborer from supporting other capitalists, consequently reducing profits. He predicted that these two faults would be the ultimate demise of the capitalist society (Unsw.edu). The anti-capitalist philosophy is illustrated in the fiery speech given by Old Major shortly before his death. The pig preaches to his fellow abused farm animals, “Only get rid of Man and the produce of our labor would be our own. Almost overnight we would become rich and free” (Orwell, pg. 30). “Man” in this phrase can represent a number of things, including capitalism and its profiters. In this chapter, Old Major behaves exactly as Marx did, working tirelessly to convince the mistreated workers that the blame for their miserable situations should be placed solely on the the cruel bourgeoisies who were using the cheap labor to their advantage. Of course, even though both Marx and Old Major spent significant time orating long speeches filled with complaints, they were certainly not without a plan of action.
The need to rebel was another trait for which Marx is well known. He dedicated the majority of his time to living by his most fervent maxim: the point of man’s existence is to change the world (“Karl Marx”). For example, he is reported to have spent a third of his inheritance on arming a group of Belgian workers planning revolutionary action ("Karl Marx”). This also is a manifestation of the fact that Marx was not necessarily a proponent of peaceful protest, in contrast to many of his contemporaries. In fact, he even encouraged forceful revolution in countries such as Germany and France, where there was a lack of strong democratic government (“Karl Marx”). Again, Old Major backs the theories of Marx by crying out in the same impassioned speech to the farm animals, “That is my message to you, comrades: rebellion! I do not know when that Rebellion will come, it might be in a week or a hundred years, but I know... that justice will be done” (Orwell, pg. 30). This quote signifies Marx’s urge to overthrow oppressive forces through revolutionary action. As is to be expected, Marx had a definite political and economic plan for societies who had recently engaged in a rebellion, and it is this plan for which he is most celebrated - and criticized.
This plan is known as Marxism, first introduced by Marx in a pamphlet called, The Communist Manifesto. He envisioned a society in which the class system was nonexistent and the people owned all means of economic production (“Marx, Karl Heinrich”). Additionally, he prophesied that this society would eliminate profits, losses, money and even private property (Econlib.org). According to him, even organized government would disappear, while outlook and motivation would be wholly cooperative. Greed, competition and general conflict would be outdated and irrelevant, as Marx theorized that these evils thrived only as a direct result of class domination (Unsw.edu). As Old Major concludes his speech, he gravely forewarns, “And, above all, no animal must ever tyrannise over his own kind. Weak or strong, clever or simple, we are all brothers… All animals are equal.” This principle is really the heart of Marxism and communism, and it was this principle which inspired the overthrow of the Russian Czars and formation of the Soviet Union.
Marx clearly had an enormous impact on the institution of the Soviet Union and resulting “communist” society. After his death in 1883 (“Karl Marx”, Encyclopedia Britannica), the founders of the Soviet Union used his ideas to implant a collectivist society that later deteriorated so markedly that it is often questioned as to whether life was better under the rule of the czars. Russians revolted against the imperious czars, rejected capitalism, and began a new “classless” and “equal” society, all of which were Marx’s fundamentals. In Orwell’s allegorical work Animal Farm, this, as well as Marx and his idealist beliefs, are depicted through the lives and struggles of a group of very mislead farm animals and their nefarious leader, Napolean.
Econlib.org. Library of Economics and Liberty, n.d. Web. 31 Oct. 2014.
Karl Marx.“ Britannica School. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 2014. Web. 11 Nov. 2014.
“Karl Marx.” Wikipedia. N.p.: n.p., 2014. Wikipedia.org. Web. 29 Oct. 2014.
“Marx, Karl Heinrich.” West’s Encyclopedia of American Law. Ed. Shirelle Phelps. 2nd ed. 450-51. Gale Database, n.d. Web. 30 Oct. 2014.
Orwell, George. Animal Farm. New York: Signet Classic, 1956. Print.
Unsw.edu. UNSW, n.d. Web. 28 Oct. 2014.